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- You Never Know Your Luck, Volume 3. - 4/14 -


pocket.

"If you destroyed this letter he would never believe but that it was worse than it is; and it is bad enough, Heaven knows, for any woman to have written to her husband--or to any one else's husband. You thought you were the centre of the world when you wrote that letter. Without a penny, he would be a great man, with a great future; but you are only a pretty little woman with a fortune, who has thought a great lot of herself, and far too much of herself only, when she wrote that letter."

"How do you know what is in it?" There was agony and challenge at once in the other's voice. "Because I read it--oh, don't look so shocked! I'd do it again. I knew just how to act when I'd read it. I steamed it open and closed it up again. Then I wrote to you. I'm not sorry I did it. My motive was a good one. I wanted to help him. I wanted to understand everything, so that I'd know best what to do. Though he's so far above us in birth and position, he seemed in one way like our own. That's the way it is in new countries like this. We don't think of lots of things that you finer people in the old countries do, and we don't think evil till it trips us up. In a new country all are strangers among the pioneers, and they have to come together. This town is only twenty years old, and scarcely anybody knew each other at the start. We had to take each other on trust, and we think the best as long as we can. Mr. Crozier came to live with us, and soon he was just part of our life--not a boarder; not some one staying the night who paid you what he owed you in the morning. He was a friend you could say your prayers with, or eat your meals with, or ride a hundred miles with, and just take it as a matter of course; for he was part of what you were part of, all this out here--don't you understand?"

"I am trying hard to do so," was the reply in a hushed voice. Here was a world, here were people of whom Mona Crozier had never dreamed. They were so much of an antique time--far behind the time that her old land represented; not a new world, but the oldest world of all. She began to understand the girl also, and her face took on a comprehending look, as with eyes like bronze suns Kitty continued:

"So, though it was wrong--wicked--in one way, I read the letter, to do some good by it, if it could be done. If I hadn't read it you wouldn't be here. Was it worth while?"

At that moment there was a knock at the outer door of the other room, or, rather, on the lintel of it. Mona started. Suppose it was her husband --that was her thought.

Kitty read the look. "No, it isn't Mr. Crozier. It's the Young Doctor. I know his knock. Will you come and see him?"

The wife was trembling, she was very pale, her eyes were rather staring, but she fought to control herself. It was evident that Kitty expected her to do so. It was also quite certain that Kitty meant to settle things now, in so far as it could be done.

"He knows as much as you do?" asked Mrs. Crozier.

"No, the Young Doctor hasn't read the letter and I haven't told him what's in it; but he knows that I read it, and what he doesn't know he guesses. He is Mr. Crozier's honest, clever friend. I've got an idea-- an invention to put this thing right. It's a good one. You'll see. But I want the Young Doctor to know about it. He never has to think twice. He knows what to do the very first time."

A moment later they were in the other room, with the Young Doctor smiling down at "the little spot of a woman," as he called Crozier's wife.

CHAPTER XIV

AWAITING THE VERDICT

"You look quite settled and at home," the Young Doctor remarked, as he offered Mrs. Crozier a chair. She took it, for never in her life had she felt so small physically since coming to the great, new land. The islands where she was born were in themselves so miniature that the minds of their people, however small, were not made to feel insignificant. But her mind, which was, after all, vastly larger in proportion than the body enshrining it, felt suddenly that both were lost in a universe. Her impulse was to let go and sink into the helplessness of tears, to be overwhelmed by an unconquerable loneliness; but the Celtic courage in her, added to that ancient native pride which prevents one woman from giving way before another woman towards whom she bears jealousy, prevented her from showing the weakness she felt. Instead, it roused her vanity and made her choose to sit down, so disguising perceptibly the disparity of height which gave Kitty an advantage over her and made the Young Doctor like some menacing Polynesian god.

Both these people had an influence and authority in Mona Crozier's life which now outweighed the advantage wealth gave her. Her wealth had not kept her husband beside her when delicate and perfumed tyranny began to flutter its banners of control over him. Her fortune had driven him forth when her beauty and her love ought to have kept him close to her, whatever fate might bring to their door, or whatever his misfortune or the catastrophe falling on him. It was all deeply humiliating, and the inward dejection made her now feel that her body was the last effort of a failing creative power. So she sat down instead of standing up in a vain effort at retrieval.

The Young Doctor sat down also, but Kitty did not, and in her buoyant youth and command of the situation she seemed Amazonian to Mona's eyes. It must be said for Kitty that she remained standing only because a restlessness had seized her which was not present when she was with Mona in Crozier's room. It was now as though something was going to happen which she must face standing; as though something was coming out of the unknown and forbidding future and was making itself felt before its time. Her eyes were almost painfully bright as she moved about the room doing little things. Presently she began to lay a cloth and place dishes silently on the table--long before the proper time, as her mother reminded her when she entered for a moment and then quickly passed on into the kitchen, at a warning glance from Kitty, which said that the Young Doctor and Mona were not to be disturbed.

"Well, Askatoon is a place where one feels at home quickly," added the Young Doctor, as Mona did not at once respond to his first remark. "Every one who comes here always feels as though he--or she--owns the place. It's the way the place is made. The trouble with most of us is that we want to put the feeling into practice and take possession of 'all and sundry.' Isn't that true, Miss Tynan?"

"As true as most things you say," retorted Kitty, as she flicked the white tablecloth. "If mother and I hadn't such wonderful good health I suppose you'd come often enough here to give you real possession. Do you know, Mrs. Crozier," she added, with her wistful eyes vainly trying to be merely mischievous, "he once charged me five dollars for torturing me like a Red Indian. I had put my elbow out of joint, and he put it in again with his knee and both hands, as though it was the wheel of a wagon and he was trying to put on the tire."

"Well, you were running round soon after," answered the Young Doctor. "But as for the five dollars, I only took it to keep you quiet. So long as you had a grievance you would talk and talk and talk, and you never were so astonished in your life as when I took that five dollars."

"I've taken care never to dislocate my elbow since."

"No, not your elbow," remarked the Young Doctor meaningly, and turned to Mona, who had now regained her composure.

"Well, I shan't call you in to reduce the dislocation--that's the medical term, isn't it?" persisted Kitty, with fire in her eyes.

"What is the dislocation?" asked Mona, with a subtle, inquiring look but a manner which conveyed interest.

The Young Doctor smiled. "It's only her way of saying that my mind is unhinged and that I ought to be sent to a private hospital for two."

"No--only one," returned Kitty.

"Marriage means common catastrophe, doesn't it?" he asked quizzically.

"Generally it means that one only is permanently injured," replied Kitty, lifting a tumbler and looking through it at him as though to see if the glass was properly polished.

Mona was mystified. At first she thought there had been oblique references to her husband, but these remarks about marriage would certainly exclude him. Yet, would they exclude him? During the time in which Shiel's history was not known might there not have been--but no, it could not have been so, for it was Kitty who had sent the letter which had brought her to Askatoon.

"Are you to be married--soon?" she asked of Kitty, with a friendly yet trembling smile, for her agitation was, despite appearances, troubling every nerve.

"I've thought of it quite lately," responded Kitty calmly, seating herself now and looking straight into the eyes of the woman, who was suggesting more truth than she knew.

"May I congratulate you? Am I justified on such slight acquaintance? I am sure you have chosen wisely," was the smooth rejoinder.

Kitty did not shrink from looking Mona in the eyes. "It isn't quite time for congratulations yet, and I'm not sure I've chosen wisely. My family very strongly disapproves. I can't help that, of course, and I may have to elope and take the consequences."

"It takes two to elope," interposed the Young Doctor, who thought that Kitty, in her humorous extravagance, was treading very dangerous ground indeed. He was thinking of Crozier and Kitty; but Kitty was thinking of Crozier, and meaning John Sibley. Somehow she could not help playing with this torturing thing in the presence of the wife of the man who was the real "man in possession" so far as her life was concerned.

"Why, he is waiting on the doorstep," replied Kitty boldly and referring only to John Sibley.

At that minute there was the crunch of gravel on the pathway and the sound of a quick footstep. Kitty and Mona were on their feet at once. Both recognised the step of Shiel Crozier. Presently the Young Doctor recognised it also, but he rose with more deliberation.

At that instant a voice calling from the road arrested Crozier's advance to the open door of the room where they were. It was Jesse Bulrush asking a question. Crozier paused in his progress, and in the moment's time it gave, Kitty, with a swift look of inquiry and with a burst of the real soul in her, caught the hand of Crozier's wife and pressed it warmly. Then, with a face flushed and eyes that looked straight ahead of


You Never Know Your Luck, Volume 3. - 4/14

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